Everyone is the creator of one’s own faith ultimately questions what it means to produce and exhibit art amid the daily precariousness we face in Lebanon.
We will never forget the tragedy that befell us on 4 August 2020 when a violent explosion in the port of Beirut razed our city to the ground. Hundreds were killed, thousands lost their homes, and numerous buildings were shattered. None of us came out of this catastrophe unscathed; our bodies and minds bear traces – both tangible and invisible – of the trauma we endured. For years, we had unknowingly been walking by a makeshift bomb.
Mere hours before the explosion, designer and gallerist Gaïa Fodoulian posted a photo on Facebook from her home in Beirut: a picture of her wearing a crimson dress, running towards the camera, a mountain of green behind her. This photograph was originally taken at the Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka, where Fodoulian had traveled in February 2020. Its caption read: “Everyone is the creator of one’s own faith.” We may never know what Fodoulian had in mind when she created this post, nor will we understand the reason behind her writing that striking caption. These words would be the last she published in the virtual realm and they remain an ominous marker of her untimely death just a few hours later.
AD Leb’s inaugural exhibition is both a direct reference and a tribute to Fodoulian’s final words. How can art and design shape our experience of the present moment? What role do they play in the increasingly virtual and crisis-prone world we live in today? To what extent is artistic creation an act of faith? The exhibition asks us to reflect on these questions, creating a dialogue with the selected artists and designers.
Everyone is the creator of one’s own faith brings together both newly commissioned and existing pieces by nine local talents who were asked to present works in response to the themes invoked by the exhibition title. The result is a showcase of varied disciplines spanning illustration, photography, neon artwork, and furniture.
“This project is more than just a gallery, it is a vital source of hope and connection: for the talented artists and designers in Lebanon, giving visibility to their work and nurturing their creative growth; for Beirut’s cultural scene, and the various public and private spaces that have sustained damage; for animals in need and their heroic rescuers, whose work is supported by a Foundation in your name; and on a broader scale, it represents hope for the country that you loved, which has suffered so much over the past year, helping us look ahead to the future.”
– AD Leb team
About Gaïa Fodoulian & her project
In the early months of 2020, standing halfway between a nationwide uprising and a global pandemic, Gaïa Fodoulian had the idea for Art Design Lebanon: a platform that brings together her two greatest passions, art and design, and which operates across both the digital and physical worlds.
An aspiring designer herself, Gaïa had a unique vision for AD Leb. She wanted it to be inclusive, innovative, edgy, and offbeat: a place where you could discover the work of emerging and more established practitioners and engage with other art and design enthusiasts.
Over the next few months, Gaïa worked diligently on developing AD Leb’s mission and ethos. But the Beirut port explosion of August 4th changed everything. Her work on AD Leb was brutally interrupted after her untimely death. Gaïa’s mother, Annie Vartivarian, decided to realize Gaïa’s project as a tribute to her, and in honor of her memory.
Annie wanted to carry on Gaïa’s work to keep her daughter’s memory alive and she had deep faith in the platform’s mission.
Today, AD Leb has come to life thanks to Annie and the hard work of the AD Leb team.
AD Leb is a not-for-profit gallery. All proceeds will go to the Gaïa Fodoulian Foundation, an organization that supports and cares for animals in need and provides assistance for animal rescuers – a cause that Gaïa cared deeply about throughout her life.
The Tabbal building
Everyone is the creator of one’s own faith occupies the first, second and third floors of a beautiful heritage building which dates back to the late 19th century, located on the historic Sursock street. The building was classified as a historical building by the Directorate General of Antiquities in 1999.
Each floor features a central hall, marked with a triple arcade on the façade. The central hall is the heart of the house – the primary space where the family would gather and socialize. The other rooms, including the kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms, can be accessed from this central space. This spatial configuration, which was common at the time, has become synonymous with traditional Lebanese architecture.
At the time of the Beirut port explosion, the only remaining occupant in the building was Georges Tabbal. The entire building was affected by the blast, leaving it in shambles and disarray. It once again attests to the violence and ruin that have befallen the city.
That this exhibition should take place in one of Beirut’s endangered heritage buildings is no coincidence. In its own, humble way, the show attempts to shed light on the city’s hidden scars and beauties, concretized in this building’s architectural makeup. Often forgotten, heritage buildings are important markers of the history of Beirut and its citizens; by safeguarding them, we are preserving the memory of the city and the people who inhabit it.